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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Author Steve Berry helps other writers get words on a page | Maggie Galehouse, Houston Chronicle

Steve Barry, author of best-selling historical thrillers like Steve Berry is the New York Times bestselling author of The Emperor's Tomb, The Balkan Escape and The Paris Vendetta, spoke at a recent writer's workshop in Houston.

Galehouse writes that he suggested authors think of every story in three chucks:
Act I: The first 20 percent of the story, in which you establish character, point of view, the major conflict and the crucible - the thing that compels a character to do something he or she wouldn't normally do. ...
Act II: The middle 60 percent of the story that mixes up the action and introduces subplots. This is where the bad guy does bad things, the protagonist gathers clues and romance rears its head.
Act III: The final 20 percent of the story, containing the crisis and the conclusion.
He also suggested that writing in third person ("he" or "she") is preferable to writing in first person ("I"). Third person allows the writer to provide multiple points of view, not just the point of view of one character. Galehouse, however, names a couple of well-known authors who write in first person.

In advice applicable to all writers, not just fiction writers, Galehouse reports:
"Passive voice," Berry informs the crowd, "is a fatal disease." Never write, "The contract was signed by John" when you can write, "John signed the contract."
Avoid "ly" words, he says, because they're symptoms of passive voice. Instead of writing, "He walked slowly," find a better verb: "He crept."
Berry also offered advice to make dialogue more realistic:
Dialogue in books isn't real, Berry continues. Few of us are as pithy and quick in real-life conversations. Still, authors must strive for authenticity. He recommends short bursts of "oblique" dialogue that avoid information-dumping, propel characters forward and introduce conflict ....

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